Microsoft responds to attack on NHS as Scotland boards affected grows

Microsoft said this evening that its engineers had added detection and protection to its Windows operating system against a ransomware attack that had disrupted hospitals in the UK and infected computers in dozens of other countries around the world. “Today our engineers added detection and protection against new malicious software known as Ransom:Win32.WannaCrypt,” a Microsoft spokesman said in a statement. It said the company was working with its customers to provide additional assistance.

Eleven of Scotland’s 14 NHS health boards were hit by the cyber-attack. The only boards apparently not affected were Lothian, Orkney and Shetland. Shona Robison told BBC Scotland that there was “absolutely no evidence” of any breach of patient data. “We are able to give that level of assurance to patients. Everybody is working very hard through the night and over the weekend to help to resolve these issues, to make sure that we can minimise the impact on patients.”

According to a report in The Washington Post, the malicious software works by exploiting a flaw in Microsoft software that was described in documents stolen from America’s National Security Agency and leaked in April by a criminal group called Shadow Brokers. The Post said: “Microsoft released a ‘critical’ patch fixing the flaw in March, before the NSA documents were publicly released, but the patch was apparently applied inconsistently, with many computers continuing to be unprotected.”

Scotland’s First Minister chaired a meeting of its Government’s resilience committee this evening and it was due to meet again tomorrow morning. Health Secretary Shona Robison said in a statement: “Scottish Government health officials are currently working closely with affected boards to assess the extent of the problem, and take steps to isolate affected systems, which have been affected by a ransomware cyber-attack of the kind which has also affected health trusts in NHS England.”

Dr Emma Fardon, a GP in Dundee, told the BBC: “It became very obvious at around 1pm. I came back from house visits to find all our computers hit by the virus. It was the red display asking for the money. We can’t access any patient records. Everything is fully computerised. We have no idea what drugs people are on or the allergies they have. We can’t access the appointments system.

“We’ve had to try and phone as many people to rearrange their appointments to next week. It’s had a massively disruptive effect. We can’t process any documents, can’t issue prescriptions, or look up results. We’re trying to accommodate who we can. We are still seeing people who really need it. We’ve had glitches in the past but I’ve never seen anything as bad as this. We’ve no idea how long it will last for.”